May 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Portola boys basketball team gives fans plenty to cheer about with a trip to CIF playoffs in first varsity season

Portola students have been excited about their team’s season.

Portola’s boys basketball team beat the odds and earned a spot in the CIF 4AA playoffs in its first varsity season.

The Bulldogs (14-14, 5-5) wound up third in the Pacific Coast League to advance to post-season action.

Portola will play Santiago, co-champion of the Garden Grove League Friday night at 7 in Garden Grove in the opening round.

“It’s very exciting, obviously for our program,” said Portola Coach Brian Smith. “But I was telling our team that I think it’s even more exciting for our school since we’re so new and we’re the first varsity team to make it to the playoffs.

“There’s a buzz around the school right now and it’s really cool to see because we’re so young, as far as this school and to be able to accomplish what we’ve accomplished this year is a big testament to what the boys have bought into and their work and our coaching staff and all the support we’ve had.”

Portola wrapped up a CIF playoff berth with a 66-60 victory over Irvine on Jan. 31.

“The student body was wanting to rush the floor,” Smith said. “I think I made a comment, ‘there’s a lot of excitement for a third place team here.’ I found out from one of our administrators that Uni had ending up beating Woodbridge, so I called the boys over and I said, ‘guys, Uni won and we’re going to the playoffs’ and they just went crazy and the celebration continued after that. It was good to be a part of that.”

In that game, Portola also welcomed back one of its top players, junior guard Robert Giraldy, who had been out with a facial injury following a collision in a PCL game. He has averaged about 10 points a game.

“He wasn’t going to be back, but the doctor gave him clearance as long as he was wearing this specialized mouthpiece that he has and he was able to play,” Smith said. “We didn’t know about his conditioning, but I think he fed off the moment and the crowd and he played well for us.”

Portola continues to get solid play from junior forward Mohsen Hashemi, who averaged 17 points a game in league.

“He can play inside, he can play outside, and he’s leading the team in rebounding and scoring as well,” Smith said.

Shoma Doherty (9.5 points a game) and Jeffrey Chen (6 points a game) are also contributing.

The team continues to improve and has made great strides Smith said.

Portola was struggling in December and “we were at a low point in our season and we weren’t playing well together,” Smith said. “We kind of started figuring some things out and started enjoying playing basketball a little bit more.”

“They’re always playing hard and they don’t want to fail. Everybody likes to win, but these guys actually like preparing to win. So hopefully we can prepare enough for tomorrow night’s game.”

The Bulldogs will now turn their attention to Santiago (18-8), which shared the Garden Grove League title with La Quinta. Both teams were 8-2 in league play.

“They’re a scrappy team,” Smith said. “They’re tough and they’ve got a bunch of seniors who don’t want to lose so we’ve talked about that with our boys about how we have to prepare for that, but I think it’s a good match-up for us.”

PORTOLA GOES TO THE WIRE IN CIF PLAYOFF OPENER

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com